I know what you’re thinking, and yes, that IS a real word
According to Google’s dictionary, intentionality is a noun that means “the fact of being deliberate or purposive” and it’s a real word. However, that definition isn’t exactly crystal clear on what intentionality is, or how to be intentional.
Basically, intentionality is the noun form of intentional. Intentional is an adjective, used most often to describe an action or person. When an action is intentional, it’s done with purpose, like when you trip and fall “on purpose” to hug the ground, you are saying that your action was intentional. When a person is intentional, they actively work and make choices to pursue a goal.
Unfortunately, most people are not intentional. They make choices on the fly to suit what they need at that moment or what’s easiest. They go where life takes them. As much as flexibility is important, we also want direction in our lives, and that’s where intentionality comes in.
There are three places in life where intentionality comes in handy, and in this post, I’ll explain what being intentional means in each of those areas.
I really did think about saving this one for last, because it’s the most important, so you only get the best when you read until the end, but I’m going to be nice. Why? Because if there is one there is one thing that I need you to hear about, it’s being intentional with mental health. In order to be intentional anywhere else, you have to start with being intentional with your own self.
What does it mean to be intentional with mental health?
Here I go again with the answers up front. It means to be active in making sure you are okay mentally and emotionally. You might feel totally fine right now, like your mental health is great, but this is still worth reading. I have first-hand knowledge of how unexpected and devastating a total mental health collapse can be.
How can you be intentional about self-care as it relates to mental health? The first step is understanding your needs. What do you need after a long day? For me, I need everyone to be quiet on the drive home while I listen to music. That’s how I can relax and stay calm. How can you celebrate a good day? Personally, all I need is a high-five or a hug or a good job and I’m set. Because I’m always hard on myself, just the feeling of pride or relief after a good day is celebration enough.
Then you put your plan into action! After every day, ask yourself what you need to do to relax and feel okay. If it’s been a long day, do what you do to stay calm and feel better. If today was great, do your celebration routine. Making the question “how am I doing” a habitual thing is important because you are protecting yourself from emotional exhaustion and collapse.
What am I protecting myself from?
After too long of not making sure you’re okay, you can have what I call a mental health collapse. This comes in many forms. You might lash out easily because you’re always frustrated and you aren’t taking care of that. You might live in fear and anxiety because you haven’t been reassuring and caring for yourself. Like me, you might feel that life is constantly dampened by sadness because you weren’t helping yourself. This might happen all of a sudden, like you’ve reached a limit of how long you can go without self-care, or it may be triggered by something.
Understand your emotional needs and practice self-care to make sure that you don’t mentally collapse from emotional exhaustion. It’s that easy
Okay, this one’s easy, but important, especially if you live with your family. In most cases, family is your number one support and you need a close relationship with them. If a relationship with family is unsalvagable, not worth saving, or harmful to you, then pay even more attention to the last area of intentionality.
Being intentional with family means spending time with them. Maybe this looks like scheduling time to hang out, like Saturdays are family outing days. Maybe this looks like family dinners and homecooked meals. Maybe this looks like just a simple check-in with a family member each morning, but whatever it is, do it consistently and actively.
Catering To Needs
Remember that your family also has mental health/self-care needs, so make sure you respect that. Like I said before, I need everyone to be quiet on the drive home from school, and they respect that. My brother needs quiet while he works on homework, so I do work in my room instead of at the dining table. My dad needs utter silence while working on a project, so everyone is silent when we know he’s working on something important. My mother needs alone time and time to read books, so we give time for that. It’s key to respect your families needs.
Intentionality is all about actively pursuing a goal. One big goal for the area of family is trust. Give your family updates about your life consistently, so they feel in the loop. This creates a sort of bond of trust. When something big or hard appears in your life, your family will be your support, because they’ve been there every step of the way, and they’ve got you now. I know that there are family situations where this is not possible, and trust might be too much, so try to find someone that you can trust and that will be like family for you.
Hey, we have class together, let’s be friends. Then the friendship ends because you don’t have the same teacher next year. This kind of friendship is elementary, but many adults use this temporary and unintentional friendship model too, and they don’t even know it. Hey, we work together, let’s be friends. Hey, our kids are both on the soccer team, let’s go to coffee some time. It happens a lot.
It’s okay to start that way
Those elementary friendships are how you meet people, so don’t be disappointed if that’s you. To move forward though, you have to reach out to a lot of people, and pick out the goodies. From there, you pick the people you really enjoy and you stay in touch after the connection is over.
Staying in touch
After the soccer season is over, maintain a relationship with your friend. Even during the connection, don’t just talk during practice in the bleachers. Hang out other times too. Push to stay in touch.
For me, I get together outside of school with my friends. I go to the movies or the mall with them. I get fro-yo or Starbucks after school with them. I invite them to parties and create social gatherings. I text, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts Message them. I stay in touch with the people I choose, which puts me in control of my friendships.
Or set any goal
And actively pursue it. That’s intentionality. You did it.